Big veal, pork and prosciutto meatballs with Parmesan polenta

Serves: 6

These are the best meatballs either Nat or I have ever had.

Not only that, there is an agreeable distance between these meatballs and whatever is in second place.

I am not kidding.

These made us so happy and I think there are a few things that contributed to the success.

The original recipe was from Gourmet Traveller though we made a number of tactical (and genius in my opinion!) changes, both to method and ingredients.

If you served these at a dinner party, everyone – everyone – would pin you down al la Paul Newman when his friends locked him in his garage and made him make a barrel of his famous salad dressing.

If you served this at your restaurant, people would say, “Oh, you have to go to Lucio’s and try his big meatballs. They are incredible. They are equal in genius to Paul Newman’s salad dressing and I think it’s because Lucio uses 75/25% veal and pork mince.”

Get started today, let your mince combine in the fridge for 48 hours and open your own Lucio’s for the night!

Ingredients

Sauce

800gm diced, canned tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped mixed sage and oregano plus extra to serve
150ml red wine (leaving 600ml for you)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Torn mozzarella plus extra to serve

Polenta

1 cup milk plus extra as you go
1 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup polenta
50gm Parmesan, finely grated plus extra to serve
50gm butter, cubed and room temperature
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Meatballs

750gm veal mince
250gm pork mince
160gm Parmesan, finely grated
120gm coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 eggs
3 tbsp finely chopped mixed sage and oregano
8 thin prosciutto slices
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. 24 – 48 hours before cooking, combine the meatball mixture except the prosciutto slices and olive oil. Mix well and refrigerate.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions for 8 minutes or until soft and starting to golden. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 5 minutes, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the chopped herbs and cook for 30 seconds and then add the diced tomatoes and red wine. Simmer over a low heat for 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, commence the polenta: in a saucepan, bring the milk and stock to the point of scalding though not boiling. Slowly whisk in the polenta and keep whisking for 45 – 60 minutes, adding small amounts of milk as need be, until the polenta is no grainy and you have a thick polenta mixture.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and butter, checking for seasoning. Set aside.
  5. While the polenta is cooking, divide the mince into eight and roll into large meatballs. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each.
  6. Heat olive oil over a medium-high heat and cook the meatballs on each side, making an effort to cook and caramelise the prosciutto: around 10 minutes. Transfer to the pan with the tomato mixture, turning occasionally until cooked through. 5 minutes before serving, drop some of the torn mozzarella into the sauce to melt.
  7. To serve, dollop some polenta onto your plates. Ladle a meatball on top with sauce. Sprinkle chopped herbs, grated Parmesan and torn mozzarella on top and serve.

Thomas Keller’s “Yabba Dabba Do”

Serves: 2 – 3

Yabba Dabba Do: Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna and Bordelaise Sauce

For me at least, nothing beats a beautiful piece of standing rib steak and some amazing potatoes.

It’s almost a primal thing.

This Thomas Keller dish – one I have cooked a few times – is just wonderful and turns any Saturday or Sunday lunch into a long afternoon of wine, laughter and smiles. You just know something magic is going to happen when someone serves you an enormous standing rib!

A few points before you start:

  • The recipe asks for veal stock. I know I should invest the time and make a veal stock, though I so rarely use it. You will struggle to find veal stock so try and find veal glaze or veal jus and add a little bit and then water until you get the flavour of stock.
  • The recipe asks for Yukon Gold potatoes. A fruit-and-veg friend of Nat’s (I am serious) told her that this variety of potato is uncommon in Australia and to substitute… white potatoes.
  • The recipe asks for Chanterelle Mushrooms. Not only are these apparently the most expensive mushroom you can buy (not withstanding truffles), you can’t buy them. Well, you can’t buy them easily in Australia. We used portobellos and they were fine. It is after all the beef, potatoes and the sauce you came for.

Ingredients

Cote de Boeuf (Beef Rib)

1 double-cut rib steak (about 1kg or so)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Canola oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Bordelaise Sauce

1 cup red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon
1/3 cup sliced shallots (French onions)
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
10 sprigs Italian parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp sliced garlic
6 black peppercorns
1 cup Veal Stock

Pommes Anna

10 pitted prunes
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 tbsp minced shallots (French onions)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 kg Yukon Gold potatoes
6 tablespoons Clarified Butter (we used ghee)

Chanterelle Mushrooms

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 generous cup chanterelle mushrooms, washed, stems peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Thyme sprigs
A green vegetable: we did broccolini sautéed with garlic

Method

  1. Sprinkle all sides of the beef liberally with salt and pepper. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 1 day to allow the flavours to develop.
  2. One hour before cooking, remove the beef from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature.

For the Bordelaise Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the wine, vegetables, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and garlic to a simmer and simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the peppercorns and veal stock and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the stock is reduced to a sauce consistency (abut 1/2 cup).
  2. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan.

For the Pommes Anna

  1. Place the prunes and chicken stock in a small saucepan; the prunes should just be covered with liquid.
  2. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the prunes are very soft. Remove the prunes to a chopping board and finely chop them. Add the shallots and salt to taste.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  4. Peel the potatoes and trim into cylinders that are 5cm in diameter. Using a mandoline, cut the potatoes into 1mm slices and place the slices in a bowl of cold water for a minute to remove some of the starch. Drain and dry on paper towel.
  5. Put 2 tbsp of the clarified butter in a 20cm ovenproof non-stick skillet. Place a slice of potato in the center of the pan; lay more potato slices around the edge of the pan, overlapping them by half, until you have completely circled the pan. Continue with another overlapping circle inside the first. When the entire pan is circled by potato, season and repeat again with another layer of circled potato.
  6. Spread half the prune mixture over the potatoes leaving a 2cm border at the edges. Make 2 more circled layers of potato, spread the remaining prune mixture and then 2 more circled layers of potato.
  7. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter over the potatoes and place the skillet over a medium-low heat.
  8. Once the butter begins to bubble, cook for 3 – 4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure the potatoes are not sticking.
  9. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until the potatoes are well browned and crisp.
  10. When ready to serve, invert the pan onto a board and cut into wedges.

For the steak

  1. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, pat the steak dry and wrap the bones in aluminium foil to prevent from burning.
  2. Heat the 3 tbsp of the canola oil in a heavy ovenproof pan over a high heat. Add the steak and sear it for 4 to 5 minutes to until it is dark brown and crusty on the bottom. Flip the steak and brown the second side for 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Pour off most of the oil and add the butter to the pan. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 5 minutes. Baste the meat with the butter and pan juices, turn the steak over, sprinkle with salt and continue to cook, basting every 5 minutes for about 20 – 25 minute or until a thermometer reads 40c.
  4. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest in the pan for 10 minutes.

For the Chanterelle Mushrooms

  1. Heat the butter in a skillet over a medium heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms, season and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid has evaporated.

To complete

  1. Rewarm the sauce over a low heat.
  2. Remove the string from the steak and cut the meat against the grain into 1 – 2cm slices.
  3. Plate the steak on a plate, arrange the mushrooms over the steak, spoon over some of the sauce and garnish with thyme sprigs and the mushroom at the side.

Thai Basil Beef

Serves: 4

Looking back on it, every blog here that is mince based, starts with something like: mince is the best, mince is our favourite, mince is our last meal, etc.

Because its true.

Any which way, we love it and Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai minces are up there as our favourite weeknight meals.

You’ve been at work, it’s raining, it’s on Monday and yet… you’re having spicy mince for dinner!

This Thai Basil Mince is super easy and you can’t overdo it on the basil front.

It is also healthy, even if you do have it with a cup of boiled Jasmine rice which… because it is Monday… you should.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
500gm ground beef mince
2 shallots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup basil (Thai basil if you can)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, to garnish
Chopped peanuts and crispy fried shallots to garnish
Jasmine rice to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan or wok and cook the beef mince and shallots until the meat is cooked and browning; about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the capsicum, garlic and chillies and cook until fragrant; another 2 – 3 minutes
  3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lime and basil and cook until the basil starts to wilt; about a minute. Taste test to make sure the balance of salty, sweet and sour is right.
  4. Garnish with the sliced spring onions, chopped peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with rice.

Matt Preston’s Classic Ragu with Polenta Dumplings

Serves: 4 – 6

We’ve typed up a few ragus and slow braises and we have reached a point where unless there is something radical about the dish, it wont make the cut.

This Matt Preston ragu makes the cut.

It is from his book, Yummy Easy Quick, a Christmas gift from Nat.

I’ve never had a failed Matt Preston dish and really admire his wholesome, no-holding-back cooking.

Despite the name of the book, his book – and this recipe – isn’t some sort of magazine aisle ‘I don’t have time to cook’ publication: the book is is just great recipes that are easy enough and certainly fun enough for any night of the week.

Specifically for this ragu, it is the ragu itself and especially the fun of the polenta dumplings that makes the whole thing really work.

Complex it is not, tasty, ragu amazing it is.

We had this the night before NYE 2017 with our friends Woodles and Billy.

It was fabulous and ticked all the boxes.

Happy 2018.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg gravy beef, cut into 4cm pieces
100gm pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 fresh or dry bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups passata
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Dumplings

1 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup polenta
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Heat the over to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, oven-proof saucepan. Cook the beef until browned, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and anchovies. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and cook until soft. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  4. Add the beef, tomatoes, stock and passata. Cover and bake for 2 hours; taste and season well.
  5. 15 minutes prior to this, make the dumplings: combine the flour, polenta and cheese in a bowl. Add the milk and eggs and stir until well combined. When the ragu comes out, scoop 1/4 cups of dumpling mixture on the ragu like golf balls. Sprinkle the dumplings with extra cheese.
  6. Return the dish, covered, to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Chimichurri

Chimichurri is one of our favourite sauces for beef – or chicken or pork – and this classic recipe is right down the line.

As well as serving as a side, there is something quite wonderful about marinating a piece of rump steak in this before you grill.

With more Chimichurri by the side of course.

If you haven’t made/had this before, read the ingredients and please consider!

Ingredients

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 eschallot, finely chopped
1 red jalapeño finely chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh coriander
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Combine the ingredients.
  2. If marinating meat, marinate over night.

Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

I’m not sure how you couldn’t love meatballs and I’m especially unsure how you couldn’t love these ones: with the herbs, the cheeses, the pine nuts (and some extra pistachios we added) and more grated Parmesan to serve, they’re awesome.

Prepare the meat mixture in the morning, head out to lunch and come Saturday night, open a bottle of red, put some music on and enjoy some truly excellent meatballs and sauce.

Seriously, they’re excellent.

Ingredients

3/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
40gm parsley, roughly chopped
5g basil or rosemary, roughly chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra to serve)
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 egg
500gm minced pork or beef

Sauce

2 x 400gm tinned tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine

Method

  1. Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and pine nuts over a low heat until the onion is soft and the pine nuts are golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more and then set aside to cool.
  2. Put the herbs, fennel seeds, breadcrumbs, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and egg in a bowl and add the mince. Add the cooled onion mixture, season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper and mix until all the ingredients are combined. Set aside the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
  3. Roll the meatballs about the size of a walnut and flatten slightly to make it easier to cook on both sides.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the meatballs until golden on both sides; do two batches if necessary in order to avoid overcrowding. Remove and set aside.
  5. For the sauce: Add the tinned tomatoes and wine to the saucepan over a medium heat, breaking up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with a good sprinkling of Parmesan and some fresh basil leaves.

Italian Sloppy Joes

Serves: 4

As a child of an American mother, Sloppy Joes were something I grew up with.

Essentially mince on toast, spiced with a packet of mix usually from McCormicks, an American food company.

I’ve never had it any other way and every trip back to the States has included a hunt for a dozen packs to bring back home to Australia.

Sloppy Joes are a real American comfort food and served on a toasted bread roll, you really can’t ask for anything more comfortable.

I’d considered doing my own Sloppy Joes though like messing with a Big Mac, I feared messing with what I knew and loved best.

Until tonight….

This recipe is Sloppy Joes right down the line.

The ‘Italian’ twist ironically steers it closer to the packet mix version I have always had. Add a toasted bread roll and you’re home.

I guess it is just slightly spiced mince on toast and I know that in itself isn’t amazing.

I hope however that my boys come to love Sloppy Joes as much as I do and that it becomes part of their childhood like it was mine.

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 1 extra halved
500gm beef mince
350ml passata
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp coarsely chopped oregano
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 large bread rolls, halved
2 buffalo mozzarella balls, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat and saute the onion and garlic until golden. Add the beef, breaking up and cook until browned and any liquid evaporated.
  2. Add the passata, stock, oregano, sugar, chilli flakes and fennel seeds, season to taste and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened: an hour or so. Stir in the vinegar and season again to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat a grill to high and toast the rolls cut side up. Rub the toasted side with the garlic halves, top with the mozzarella cheese and grill until melted.
  4. Spoon the meat mixture over the toasted rolls and enjoy.